In just a few weeks, the options have doubled for people in London who want to buy their bitcoin instantly with cash, rather than via an online transaction and all the proof of ID/bank payment rigmarole that entails.
If you hadn’t guessed, those options have gone from just one to two, but the speed at which they have appeared is a sign that bitcoin is increasingly being seen as a viable business option in the UK.
And now, less than a mile away, London’s very first bitcoin ATM machine has begun pinging digital currency to customers’ wallets at the trendy Old Shoreditch Station cafe.
Arts and coins
The cafe – as well as exhibitions, events and a shop – is operated by Jaguar Shoes, an arts collective that has been accepting bitcoin payments for its products since July last year.
The Lamassu Bitcoin ATM takes their bitcoin operations to a new level, and is owned and run by Future Coins, a London-based startup. Joel Raziel, entrepreneur and director of Future Coins told CoinDesk:
“I was intrigued when I first saw a bitcoin ATM on display at a conference and was shocked to find that none had appeared in London. I contacted the manufacture, Lammasu, who told me that they had not received any orders from the UK. It was at this point that I started to cost up the project and move forwards.”
Setting up shop
The decision by the UK tax authority, HMRC, to classify bitcoins as VAT exempt was announced on the day Future Coins installed the ATM.
“This couldn’t have come at a better time, said Raziel. “We could have faced major difficulties otherwise, so I suppose we took quite a risk in this sense.”
There is a limit of £1,000 for transactions at the ATM and no ID is required, unlike some ATMs in other countries.
Future Coins does not use an exchange partner at present, but the ATM manufacturer will be rolling out this option soon, Raziel said. “For the time being we are having to preload the machine with coins, which puts us at risk of currency fluctuations.”
Because of this, he adds, it will cost you an 8% commission to use the ATM currently.
“We will lower this once we have linked the ATM to an exchange, but in the mean time we have to protect ourselves from fluctuations.”
So novel is the bitcoin ATM in the UK, that its second customer travelled over 200 miles to use it. “We were so honoured to have him with us,” Raziel said, “we treated him to lunch (paid for with bitcoin).”
Future Coins may have won the title of ‘first bitcoin ATM in London’, but it will probably not have the playing field to itself for long.
Both companies have machines on order and had hoped to be the first to set up their trading business on London turf.
First or not, the city is a very big place and there is plenty of room for more ATM outlets to provide visitors and locals alike easy access to the advantages that bitcoin brings.